Like a crystal ball, sometimes an above-average record transcends its limitations by hinting at potential greatness to come. That’s the backdrop to Drug Couple’s latest release, Stoned Weekend: somewhat uneven, generally successful, but boasting an album side’s worth of stunning songs not to be missed. If Drug Couple can recognize and focus on these strengths, their next album should be a knockout. And those of us who were here first can claim we saw it coming all along.
Synergy is an ephemeral quality, one impossible to anticipate or predict. Before teaming with partner Becca in 2017, Miles Robinson had already banked a considerable solo discography. His mid-2000s output included work with members of Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio. But rock history is strewn with tales of newly added band members who propelled already-established acts to breakthrough heights. Neil Peart, Tommy Shaw, and of course, Ringo Starr comes to mind. Just a guess, but judging by Miles’ prior catalog, Becca’s positive musical influence here cannot be overstated. There’s a broad melodic sensibility to Stoned Weekend not only lacking on Miles’ earlier releases but often nonexistent. This striking growth is ongoing and plainly evident, even compared with DC’s prior 2020 record, Choose Your Own Apocalypse.
If Jesus and Mary Chain’s “Sometimes Always” contains some of the most plaintive male/female rock vocals ever caught on tape – with Sinead O’Connor guesting on The The’s wrenching “Kingdom of Rain” a close second – then Drug Couple’s “Missed Our Chance” is everything a rock duet should be. Miles warbles along like J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr., while Becca harmonizes angelically high above. They create some genuine aural witchcraft on this tune like medieval alchemists set loose inside a recording studio. The result is Stoned Weekend’s effervescent lodestar and one of 2022’s best songs thus far.
This sonic winning streak continues with the countrified strum of “Lemon Trees”, a compelling Eagles tribute (if such a thing exists) replete with glowing slide guitar. Next – in what represents the record’s penultimate high point and most meticulous Dinosaur Jr. homage – “Linda’s Tripp” veers from Guess Who-style four-time beat to rock-out jam, with Becca’s ghostly harmonies overlaying each transition. Also worthwhile are the hung-over title track, the winding Americana of “Blue Water”, and the Lobo-esque 1970s throwback “Ben & Bongo”.
So, where does Stoned Weekend go wrong? With a couple of exceptions, about halfway through. After a stellar and rewarding Side One, the band gets bogged down in soupy distortion (“Our December”), uninspired Mazzy Star meanderings (“Wyld Chyld”), and an ill-advised exercise in repetition called “Little Do I Know”. The closing tune “Still Stoned” is a passable reprise of the druggy title track but hardly essential in this context. Despite their success elsewhere, this loss of steam on Side Two is a major disappointment; the game is supposed to be four quarters long, after all. One heretical solution in our current streaming universe? Mix-n-match a few tunes from the previous Apocalypse EP, which contained worthwhile tracks such as “2027”, “No Legged Dog”, and “Missing to Mars”.
Drug Couple are a relatively novel duo in the midst of learning how to write and record well together. For true music fans, watching the maturation of a promising ensemble offers a wondrous listener experience – leaving us wanting more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Going forward here’s hoping Drug Couple point their tiller in the right direction.